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Felix! Who Knew?

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Mendelssohn's pen-and-ink drawing of Italy's Amalfi Coast
Mendelssohn's pen-and-ink of the Amalfi Coast

If Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy – the creator of the much-loved Violin Concerto in E Minor, the “Italian Symphony” and “The Hebrides,” aka “Fingal’s Cave” – hadn’t made it so big as a composer, we might well be remembering him today as an artist.  Who knew?

You can listen to the Wedding March from the incidental music to Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the Library’s online National Jukebox; there also you will find his well-known “Spring Song,” and a choral version of the Christmas carol “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” adapted by William Hayman Cummings from a tune found in Mendelssohn’s cantata “Festgesang.”

In addition to original manuscripts including songs, choral psalms, piano works, a string octet and two “Lieder ohne Worte” (songs without words) by Mendelssohn (1809-1847) in the Library’s collections — along with numerous pieces of correspondence in his own hand — the Library has two pieces of remarkable art by the young Felix.

One is a pen-and-ink sketch of the Amalfi coast of Italy (from the Library’s Rosaleen Moldenhauer Memorial Archive); the other is a watercolor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus, where he conducted a program in 1836 that included a singing performance by soprano Henriette Grabau. Scholars believe he may have given her the watercolor, in memory of that event, as a wedding present. The watercolor is in the Gertrude Clarke Whittall Collection in the Library’s Performing Arts Reading Room on Capitol Hill.

Mendelssohn watercolor of the Gewandhaus
Mendelssohn watercolor of the Gewandhaus

So the next time you’re listening to Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony, you can feast your eyes as well as your ears!

To learn more about Mendelssohn collections at the Library of Congress, look here.

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